Eye Protection: The New Normal in COVID-19

Wearing Goggles the simple answer when asked about eye protection for the majority of the public, though being unpracticed when it comes to real-life scenarios.

Human eye being the foremost highly sensitive organ of the human body proving vision, with around more than 400 million working parts, gather up to 80% of the information for the brain necessities its protection to be of utmost concern.

Our eyes have been evolved in such a way neurologically that it has its mechanisms of protecting itself. For instance, whenever an object seems to become closer to the eye or hitting the face, the blinking reflex of the eye is one of the earliest body reflexes noted in the flight or fight response. The composition of our tear layer over the eye has potential antimicrobials properties in addition to nourishing the eye surface, removing, and flushing action. Every part of the body and thus including the eye has some of the other mechanisms to salvage its parts. However, we also have some hazards from which our eyes need added protection. Here is the list of some of the possible hazards and their protection at the workplace:

Not always hazards to the eye are visible, for an instance: nonvisible light and microbes, nor their protection needs equipment always.

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Diminution soudaine de la vision ou perte de vision.

As we have entered the modern age, problems arising now are the area of special interest amongst the eye care practitioners. Owing to lesser outdoor work, more indoor faced child environment, increases the period of the use of gadget screens targeting more of the eyesight of younger age groups, sometimes leading to visual problems such as headache, eyestrain, blurred vision, in long term cause some imbalances in the way eye moves and functions.

Suggesting the use of UV protective glasses or contacts, computer glasses(blue protective coatings and near vision enhanced lenses), along with the reduction of eye screen interaction time, and 20-20-20 rule for computer users are some of the solutions.

Earlier someone seen wearing a pair of goggles was often predicted to be going out for a vacation or thought to be a manufacturing unit worker or post eye surgeries. Then came a turning point in this some kind of normal life.

Eye practitioners are aware of the pathogenicity of the class of microbes harmful to the eyes and thus keep the utmost care in preventing them while practicing Eye Care treatment regimes. Currently, as we all know a new name has joined into this list of pathogens the COVID -19 virus.

Throughout the researches supported by WHO about this virus, it has been deduced that the mode of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2virus (the causative agent of COVID -19) is through the mucosal opening nose, mouth and the eyes. Researchers have postulated that the virus uses the conjunctiva – the white part of the eye – as an entry portal to the body. Those with COVD-19 have shown symptoms like conjunctivitis, watery eyes, and chemosis. Thus considering the protection of the eyes is more evidently important for the healthy survival of an individual.

Wakefulness of the use of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) kits have increased in this pandemic era. For example, during hospital care of COVID-19 patients typically includes gowns, gloves, medical masks, and eye protection (goggles or face shield).

Why eye protection now?  Using a face mask, gloves, sanitizers along hand washing and social distancing should be enough, but while they protect the nose and mouth they still do not offer any protection to your eyes. Here is to what it functions like:

According to a meta-analysis and review study published in The Lancet, about 13 studies so far have claimed that eye protection is an important part of preventing the disease, with an average of 10.6% reduction in infection risk for those who wear protective gear for the eyes.

Making eye protection a must for some people such as the People at high risk: COVID 19 Frontline warriors, older adults, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions. Nevertheless, people other than this also should be aware of why and when to use goggles when facing risky situations.

Here are some simple ways of eye protection, not requiring equipment to be worn over eyes always, but just little indispensable care tips need to be known(Guidelines, especially for COVID, are available at organizations such as WHO, AAO, OCI, CDC any other organizations too.).

Protection of the eyes during a pandemic.

Avoid touching your eyes, or any part of your face without handwashing or sanitizing them.

Face shields: necessary for a medical professional, many other people make use of it instead of face mask, which gives you the freedom to talk properly along with whole protection to the face. And can be sanitized and reused.

Goggles: To be effective, it should be closely fitted perfectly (wrap around) especially over your brow and corners of your eyes from where the droplets can otherwise enter, contains anti-fog mechanism too. It can be easily worn over prescription glasses also.

Alternatively, you could wear safety glasses, not nearly as effective as the goggles.

Glasses instead of contact lenses are more preferred, due to its additional protective barrier. However, there is no evidence to say contact lenses can put you at risk of COVID 19. If contacts are worn then it should be supported by proper handwashing and care of not frequently touching the face or the eyes( it was found out that people wearing contacts tend to touch their face more thus lending risk of Infection).

Concluding that the importance of eye protection is not just applicable in these pandemic situations but also to be implemented in our otherwise normal lifestyle, giving a priority to eye health.

Pairs of eyes let you see the world, care for them!!

Optom. Aditi Sarkar
Pursuing M.Optometry
Hari Jyot College of Optometry
Navsari, Gujarat

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